This is a snapshot of the kind of ridiculous humor my family enjoys. We thought it would be funny if only Dad and the gingerbread man were smiling; it was. The men in our family are serious about our relationships with God and family and how we can make an impact in the world. However, we aren’t serious about much else when we’re together. The women in our lives are much the same but not quite as ridiculous.
Why am I showing you this picture? This was my last Christmas with my brother Nathan and his family for three years because they left for Uganda. I wouldn’t be being honest if I said it was easy. It is one of the hardest things I’ve done in a while. Selfishly, I wish there was a teleporter of some kind so they could do their work there and come back to hang out and share life with us, too. Sadly, that’s not possible.
There’s a lot more to this story than just sad feelings and fond memories. It all started in Van Buren, Indiana, back when I was engaged and waiting for my fiancé, Maggie, to graduate so we could get married. I had a dream of becoming a resident director at a Christian college and felt God really tugging on me to pursue this dream with my all. I agreed to do that and looked for colleges to apply to all over the nation. But in my heart, I refused to leave Indiana.
Meanwhile, God was working in my brother and sister-in-law’s (Jade) hearts as Nathan led worship at his church and they grew in Christ right before our eyes. Their adoption of their son, Ezra, from Uganda and their work in the orphanage there had shown some deeper desires in their hearts for Uganda and for missions.
My brother Luke had been pursuing a job as an actuary where he could use his God given gifts, and his wife, Katie, was doing the same thing as she taught math. They were not too far away, living in Indianapolis and doing what they were made to do; both of them made us very proud.
Lastly, Dad and Mom were a successful pastor and wife for 15 years at a little church called Farrville outside of Van Buren. We had grown up there, and everyone who went there was and are family to us. Life was good, and God was working in our family. We all spent lots of weekends together and stayed very close. Then everything changed.
At church on a Sunday morning, my dad announced that for years God had been calling them into full-time ministry—my dad was a part-time pastor—and they would be leaving the church. It was a bomb shell, and from there my world and our families’ worlds would get much bigger.
In the same year, my parents would move to Cincinnati to become full-time pastors, my wife and I would move to Kansas to become resident directors, my brother Nathan and his family would plan to move to Uganda as missionaries, and my brother Luke’s family would start growing in Indianapolis. What just happened?
God is not tidy and comfortable, He stretches us to make sure that He is who we lean on. John 16:33 (NIV) says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” For years, we had followed our Dad’s— the patriarch —example. And in one fell swoop, Dad left it all and showed us all that following God is a sacrifice.
Moving to Kansas to become an R.D. was probably one of the hardest things Maggie and I have ever done. I’m sure the same is true for my other family members who pursued what God had for them. Hopefully, this gives an insight to what our family has gone through. But I can tell you with great confidence that my family loves Jesus more than we ever did before. For that, we regret nothing.
Of course, my brother moving to Uganda, Africa—across the world—with his whole family is hard; it’s heart wrenching! It does not change the fact that God needs him and his family there now to run the race set before them. 1 Corinthians 9:24 (NIV) states, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”
I do not tell you this story to praise my family and say we are great; only God is great. Even though I miss them and will miss them greatly over the next three years as their children grow and so do mine—our baby girl will be born in February, and they will not meet until she’s 3—this story is not rare, these sacrifices are not rare. This is the life of a missionary, of so many of our missionaries. I am a missionary. My Dad is a missionary. My brothers are missionaries. Are you a missionary?
ACT: Think about what it means to live missionly. If you need help finding your path or finding out how you can get involved today, contact us at wgm.org/contactus. We would love to help you on your pursuit to win the prize for the race God has set before you.